Mango Cream | Super quick dessert

Mango Cream - Inspired by the dish of the same name at Mapro Gardens, Mahabaleshwar

Mango Cream – Inspired by the dish of the same name at Mapro Gardens, Mahabaleshwar

Every summer I resolve to make at least one mango based dessert or dish but all the mangoes get gobbled up as soon as they are ripe. The same was about to happen this year- the mango season is almost over and all I had done was eat 3-4 mangoes every day. :) A few days back, I had made chicken stroganoff for dinner which was downed with a lot of flourish but I felt like something was missing. I asked M whether he wanted a simple quick mango dessert and the reply was obvious. So this mango cream is what I made and it was well worth the little effort as the glee on the faces of the boys (M and R) and the response on facebook was something worth seeing!

You will need:

2 ripe alphonso mangoes, diced small
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tsp sugar

Method:

- Chop the mangoes into small dice. Whip the cream with the sugar till soft peaks are formed.
- Put in a couple of spoonfuls of the mangoes into a serving bowl/glass. Next layer with a spoonful of cream. Top with another layer of mangoes, followed by cream. Make as many layers as you want and have the patience for.
- Garnish with a few pieces of mango and some sweet basil.

A delightfully easy and yummy summer dessert is ready!

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The Magic (Musk) Melon

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When you think of a fruit, what comes to your mind first? Apples, oranges, sweet limes and bananas? Or grapes, strawberries and mangoes. But ever thought of figs, watermelon, musk melon? The current trend of buying produce from the supermarket has led to us missing out on a whole host of seasonal, regional fruits which are not only very tasty but easy on the pocket too. One such wonder-fruit is a musk melon. Musk melon (also known as Cantaloupe, Kharbooja) belongs to the cucurbit family which also includes cucumbers, gourds, melons, pumpkins and squashes. A musk melon could be white or pale yellow on the outside and may or may not have longitudinal green ridges. It is characterized by a thick outer skin and a soft, fleshy, interior. Musk melon seeds are also edible and find vast use in Indian traditional cuisine. In India, a variety of musk melons are available in the local markets in the summer months of April to July. One also finds them in the supermarkets, but call it my skepticism, I have always found fruits bought from the local fruit vendor to be tastier than the ones from the mall. It could also be because of the facts that the malls store melons in air-conditioned rooms whereas a melon needs to be kept at room temperature to ripen. A good ripe musk melon will not have any bruises on the skin, will emanate a sweet smell and when softly tapped on the outside will have a hollow thud.

This fruit is perfect for an afternoon or even midnight snack as it is very low in calories plus full of vital nutrients and has plenty fibre and water- which implies lesser hunger pangs. Compared to an apple, a musk melon is a much superior source of vitamins C and A as well as the mineral potassium- all of which have antioxidant properties and boost immunity. Potassium in particular helps regulate blood pressure. This fruit is also loaded with the benefits of B complex vitamins which protect the body against illness and help keep all organs healthy. The fruit and its edible seeds are a great source of dietary fibre which implies no constipation and elimination of toxins in the body. Melon seeds are also a source of a type of omega-3 fatty acid which are very good for your heart.

As a kid I used to refuse to eat musk melons as I did not like that musky odor. My mum then used to sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar and cardamom powder on it, which would prompt me to finish off an entire bowlful of it. These days we add it to a fruit salad or a summer salad along with pomegranates with a very light dressing. Musk melon and water melon scoops on skewers also make for an attractive amuse bouche. Kids may also like melon juice made into popsicles- a great summer treat. Melon seeds on the other hand are excellent in baking, for thickening gravies or as part of granola. In fact in India, dried toasted melon seeds have often been used in mukhwaas or mouth fresheners along with spices and other nuts.

And the most important benefit of melons (of all kinds including watermelons) is that their increased consumption gives you a glowing radiant skin even in the dry dull summers. The high water content and skin friendly vitamins in it ensure that your skin looks visibly fresh and radiant. This I can vouch for as the women in my family (including my mum and granny) used to always eat tons of this fruit and then rub the inside of the skin on their face and voila, an easy natural melon face pack done!

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Pro-protein?

Protein in your daily diet

Protein in your daily diet

Protein, Amino Acids, Whey protein, Protein shakes, and Protein-only diets–the “health and fitness” industry is buzzing with all of these and more words. But do you know why? Why is everyone suddenly downing “high protein smoothies” instead of other conventional breakfast? Why is a new protein powder/supplement brand being launched every other day? Why are protein shakes being touted as the miracle solution for weight loss and muscle gain?

To get to the basics–a protein is a building block of every tissue (which makes organs) in our body and is also integral in every single body process. A protein is further made of amino acids, the presence or absence of which determines whether a food protein is of a “high value” or not. So then, if the body can’t do without proteins, then surely it must be very efficient about storing proteins in large quantities? Incorrect. Here’s the crucial part–although protein is a building block of life and the body needs it to repair and maintain itself, there is no mechanism for storing protein in the body for future use. This makes it very important to consume adequate proteins in your diet on an everyday basis.

According to the WHO, a person needs about 10-35% of their daily calories from a protein source. The ICMR states that an average person with a sedentary lifestyle needs 40-60 grams of protein per day. It is not very difficult to get an average of 50 grams of protein per day if you consume a healthy, balanced diet. For vegetarians, a serving of upma with vegetables or idli with sambar and a glass of milk for breakfast; a serving of pulses or dal, two wholewheat rotis, one serving of subzi, one small bowl of yogurt and a salad for lunch; a misal for afternoon snack and kadhi khichadi and salad for dinner would approximately provide your daily protein requirement. For non-vegetarians, eggs, poultry and meat are rich sources of high value proteins.

If your first thought on reading that list of recommended foods was “OMG, all that food would so totally bust my diet,” you need to be very careful about what you are eating. A diet deficient in protein can lead to a false weight loss, wherein a person loses weight due to muscle break down, rather than by truly burning fat. Ever seen those people who shed 20 kilos in three months and are left with loose skin around the arms, waist and neck? Not eating enough protein can also put your organs and bones at risk–you may experience unexplained fatigue, slow wound healing and a compromised immune system.

So then, what if I have only protein rich foods morning, noon and night? That is the premise for a host of recent “magic” diets. However, one needs to be conscious about the fact that a lot of high protein foods from animal sources like red meats, cured meats, and loins are also high in saturated fat, which amounts to higher calories and a risk of higher cholesterol levels. Piling up on protein shakes, protein powders or protein supplements can also put a load on your kidneys in the long run. People with high protein intakes also experience ketosis where the amount of ketones in the body increases to toxic levels. The most important fact which mostly goes unnoticed is that higher proteins also amount to higher calories; plus, the body has a unique way of converting every macronutrient (including protein) to FAT! Excess proteins give higher calories and also high urea and ammonia levels in the body, which if not regulated can become harmful.

What do I eat, then? Opt for lean animal protein sources like eggs, chicken and fish or pulses, beans, dals and dairy products along with a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Stay away from processed foods including protein supplements and powders and eat fresh, local and healthy. Not to forget, that daily brisk walk never harmed anyone!

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Healthy Recipe | Grilled Chicken in Barbecue Sauce

Grilled Chicken in Barbecue Sauce

Grilled Chicken in Barbecue Sauce

I typically make this easy grilled chicken on a Friday night or for a casual dinner with friends. This is so easy and healthy that even an absolute novice cook can put this together. The barbecue sauce is a cheat’s recipe but works even better (and cheaper!) than store-bought sauces especially because you can regulate the spices, the heat and the oil that goes in. Here I have used good quality fresh chicken drumsticks but you can easily use this for chicken wings or chicken lollipop.

You will need:

500 g chicken drumsticks
1/3 cup good quality tomato ketchup (I used Kissan)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1 tbsp worscestershire sauce (optional)
1 tsp sugar
4 cloves
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 bay leaf (I used dried)

Method:

- Mix all of the ingredients except the chicken.
- Make cuts into the chicken drumstick so that the marinade can flavour the chicken completely.
- Coat the chicken well with the marinade and leave it in the bowl with the marinade for 30 mins.
- In a baking tray take a large piece of foil (enough to loosely cover the chicken). Place the chicken in the foil, pour over the marinade and bring the ends of the foil together leaving a little gap for the steam to pass.
- Grill for 30 mins at 250 degrees Celsius.
- Serve hot with chilled beer!

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Wholemeal Pumpkin Bread and Muffins

Wholemeal Pumpkin Muffins

Wholemeal Pumpkin Muffins

I have always been intrigued with the use of pumpkin in baking, but after the much loved carrot cake, I had to give pumpkin a go. And what better excuse than using it as an afternoon snack for an ever hungry toddler!

A lot of recipes for pumpkin muffins that I came across required canned pumpkin puree. As you already know of my aversion to anything processed, I used the readily available ‘desi kaddu’ or ‘laal bhopla’ (marathi). I could not be bothered with making a puree by first roasting the pumpkin and then pureeing it, so I just blended it with a bit of water in my trusted food processor and used it as is in the pumpkin bread. The result was a beautiful soft, moist quick bread. I also made some muffins out of the same batter just because I wanted to use the pretty muffin liners, which were very kindly sent to me, by Gourmet Company. This recipe is full of nutritious stuff – pumpkin, wholemeal flour, homemade butter, homemade buttermilk, organic brown sugar and eggs. So go ahead and get baking!

Wholemeal Pumpkin Bread

Wholemeal Pumpkin Bread

Recipe adapted from Buttermilk pumpkin bread.

You will need:

250 gram pumpkin, peeled, cleaned, chopped, pureed
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup homemade butter
2 large eggs
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup thick homemade buttermilk

Method:

- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Grease and dust a medium sized loaf tin.
- Blend the pumpkin puree, sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in the food processor. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mix, crack in two eggs and lightly beat them. Pour in the pumpkin and sugar mix and thoroughly mix the batter till just combined. Now add in the buttermilk and mix well.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for about 50 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Alternately you can also transfer the batter to muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Go Nuts!

almonds

Diwali comes and Diwali goes. And with it, come boxes and boxes of nuts and dried fruit in the form of dressed up gifts. Thanks to all the binging we do during the festive season, though, we are on our guilt trips and the boxes of nuts and dried fruit are relegated to the deepest recesses of our kitchen, to be discovered months later when they are beyond consumption because we are convinced that they will do us more harm than good.

Cashews, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts are all rich in calories and fat–correct. So they should be avoided at all cost–incorrect. That’s right, you don’t need to avoid nuts. In fact, you should try and include at least 25 grams of various nuts in your diet every day. A host of recent studies have shown that while nuts are rich in calories and fat, they also contain other nutrients that go a long way toward better health. Here’s a list of the wonder nutrients that nuts contain and their benefits.

Alpha-linolenic acid: This nutrient protects your heart from cardiovascular strain during times of acute stress. So every time you know you are going to have stressful times at work or home, snack on some walnuts as they are rich in alpha-linolenic acid.

Arginine: This amino acid found in most nuts helps in relaxing the blood vessels and hence reduce the risk of cardiovascular damage. Nuts pack in a good amount of heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) which boost overall heart health.

Folate: A type of B-vitamin the presence of rich quantities of folates make peanuts and almonds ‘brain food’ which is necessary for children and young adults as well as the elderly to improve neural health and cognitive ability.

Selenium: Ever imagined nuts being able to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men? Yes, the selenium rich brazil nuts have been known to do just that!

Vitamin E: The real memory and IQ booster is Vitamin E, which is found aplenty in all nuts especially almonds and walnuts, making them an ideal addition to the diets of children and adults alike.

High Fiber: Studies have shown that dieters who include nuts in their regimes are more likely to maintain their weight than those who didn’t as the high fiber in nuts gives ‘high satiety’ and a greater satisfaction of eating good food than low calorie stuff such as oil free crackers.

Gamma tocopherol: A type of Vitamin E, gamma tocopherol is found mainly in pistachios and may be useful in providing protection against lung cancer.

Apart from this, nuts like walnuts help in lowering the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. Eating a handful of nuts five days a week has also been indicative of improving men’s reproductive health.

Does that mean that one can pop a handful of nuts with a beer and still hope to improve health? Certainly not. One must remember that while nuts do have a lot of health benefits, they also contain a significant amount of calories. So ideally, nuts should replace other energy dense foods in your diet or act as a supplement to your meal.

Adding nuts like peanuts to salads, stir fries or ‘bharwa’ (stuffed) vegetables , topping hot or cold cereals with nuts, making muesli at home with assorted nuts, homemade chikkis using organic jaggery, nuts in breads and low-fat muffins are some examples of healthy additions of nuts to a diet.

Dried fruit aren’t a bad deal, either. They are a good source of energy and calories and appeal to children more easily because of the natural sugars. It is for this very reason, however, that weight watchers and diabetics should be mindful of the amount consumed. Having said that, they do make for an excellent snack on the go–always keep a small zip pack of nut clusters and dried fruit in your handbag, and you will never go hungry in a traffic jam again.

Apricot , dates, figs and raisins are a good source of iron, fiber and trace minerals. Dried berries such as cranberries and blueberries contain antioxidants as well.

How to incorporate nuts and dried fruit in your diet:

Eat a few almonds or walnuts every morning or before your exercise for a source of protein.
Add toasted nuts–chopped or ground–to your breakfast oatmeal or in salads for crunch and texture.
Instead of sweetening desserts with refined sugars, try using dried fruit puree–dates and figs in cakes; berries in fruit salads and oatmeal; dried peaches, apricots, and nectarines in cookies, etc. They not only cut down on the sugar intake but also add a flavor dimension.
Add ground nuts to thicken Indian gravies and whole dried fruit to sweeten them–these are traditional cooking techniques that we have forgotten!

This article first appeared on Gourmet Table on NOVEMBER 13, 2013.

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Not Just Water!

Picture Source: annamagazine.ca

Picture Source: annamagazine.ca

Everyone knows that, tell me something new! Well, here–water helps you lose weight, gives you glowing skin, prevents wrinkles, maintains muscle tone and also regulates blood pressure. Really?

Drink water, stay slimmer: A glass of water before a meal will help you keep fuller and you will end up eating less. Drinking more water also boosts your metabolism; more calories burned will lead to a slimmer you.

Water is the secret to my energy!: Depleted energy levels are almost always associated with decreased body water levels. Water is the carrier of nutrients in the body. Keeping yourself well-hydrated ensures that all your body cells are able to get enough oxygen and available nutrients through the blood. So if you really want those multivitamins and smoothies and salads to work, drink water!

The key to better regulated blood pressure: When you have enough water in the body, your heart has to take less effort in pumping blood throughout your body. Remember all the water therapy that was in vogue some 25 years ago amongst hypertension patients?

Improve muscle tone: Ever experienced a nasty cramp in the neck or abs when working out? It happens because the body muscle is dehydrated. Intermittent water sipping during a workout decreases chances of cramps, hence increasing your chances of getting a toned body.

The natural anti-aging potion: Drinking sufficient water keeps your skin cells hydrated and plump, hence leading to a ‘younger looking you.’

Keeps you regular: Not only does water flush impurities out of your body, it also helps in regularizing your bowel movements and decreases constipation.

Anti kidney stone: The first form of prevention of kidney stones is ensuring ample water intake and normal urine formation. Drinking more water helps dilute the minerals and salts that form kidney stones.

Stress buster: Recent studies indicate that people who don’t drink enough water are also more likely to be haunted by stress. So the next time you worry about your monthly targets, drink a glass of water!

Find plain water boring? Gourmet it up with the fast catching global trend of infused waters. That pretty jug of water with slices of limes, lemons and mint in your spa or an almost artisan drink of pineapple, Perrier water and sweet limes at a fancy bar–draw inspiration where you can! The benefit of infusing water with flavors is that along with making water interesting, you also end up getting additional nutrients and health benefits from the fruits and herbs. A good way to begin is by experimenting with citrus fruits, berries, cucumbers, herbs (mint, spearmint, basil and parsley), celery, cherries, and apples. Just slice the fruits up or add whole berries to a jug of water and keep it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Add a dash of honey if you really need it and you have a pretty non-alcoholic aperitif ready to be served!

Carry the fruits to work and dunk them in your water bottle on the desk—today!

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